Former Gophers pitcher shares memories of coach killed in Kobe Bryant helicopter crash

A former Minnesota Gophers pitcher spent a summer playing for Altobelli and said the coach left a lasting impression on him. 

“You don’t have to be a basketball fan or baseball fan to have this hit home,” Soule said.

Back in 2011, Soule spent his summer in New England, playing in the prestigious Cape Cod Amateur Baseball League under then-assistant coach John Altobelli.

“Even though it was a one summer deal, the impact he had on our entire team, he had a connection with everyone… a very loyal family man, just had your back,” he said.

Soule vividly recalls the coach’s attention to detail and passion for the game and respected his commitment to staying in touch with players.

“Whether you played for him for many years or a summer… to check in and not necessarily ask about baseball, but the family.”

Tragically, the 56-year-old Altobelli was killed in Sunday’s helicopter crash, as was his wife Keri and 13-year-old daughter Alyssa, who played basketball with Gianna Bryant.

The stadium at Orange Coast College, where Altobelli coached for nearly three decades, has been filled the last couple days with mourners paying their respects, including his father.

Billy Soule said his heart is broken and that he understands why so much of the world’s attention is focused on Kobe Bryant, but he is thinking about all the victims and the family members left behind.

“Just the human factor across the board, whether you knew Kobe and the Bryant family or the Altobelli family or the other family involved…you feel horrible that fathers were lost, mothers were lost, sisters, teammates…just a sad deal.”

While much of the world’s attention is focused on the loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, several other families were shattered over the weekend, including that of baseball coach John Altobelli.

The coach, known on amateur diamonds from southern California to New England, was killed in the helicopter crash Sunday along with his wife and teenage daughter.